OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - "People are often surprised that the Oakland Museum of California holds the Dorothea Lange archive and collection because she's a really known international photographer," says Drew Johnson, curator of photography and visual culture.
The popular exhibit, which has been extended through August 27, has sections with a specific Bay Area focus.
"She was probably the most important photographer to document the World War II-era Japanese-American [internment and] incarceration," says Lori Fogarty, director of the Oakland Museum of California.
Johnson talks about how Lange was hired by the federal government to capture the evacuation process of 120,000 people of Japanese-American descent on the West Coast into war camps.
Some of the most famous photographs from those events depicting Japanese-Americans' belongings piled up on the sidewalk in front of their homes are taken in San Francisco and Oakland.
Her black and white images convey the somber process of people waiting to be placed on buses to be taken to relocation camps.
"These are by far the best and most important images we have of the internment," Johnson said.
Other photos show a group of elementary school children reciting the pledge of allegiance just weeks before some of them were sent away.
"It's really the only instance in her career where she was overwhelmed by what she was witnessing to the point where she basically had a nervous breakdown. She knew that this was a great injustice," Johnson said.
"She had an ability to capture the dignity and the individualism and the beauty of people in desperate circumstances and bring that kind of humanity to life," said Fogarty. Some of her work is truly iconic."